As I’m writing this I’m hours away of heading to the airport for some San Diego Comic-Con fun! I can’t wait to see how what’s in store this year and if it could possibly top last year!

How are Betty and Flash doing? When we last left them Flash had decided not to marry Felicia and got to know a new friend named alcohol. Betty got a makeover and an armory. Flash decided it might be worth it to start things up again, but Betty had other ideas.

Prepare for some good stuff. Under the cut are some of my favorite Spider-Man books. Luke Ross has some great art and J.M. DeMatteis crafts some very good scripts. We also witness Flash doing something which may be the worst thing he’s done since he beat Sha Shan.

 


We start with “Hobgoblin Lives” issue 2. Jason Macendale reveals after his trial that Ned Leeds had been the Hobgoblin before him. This brings up some demons for Betty that she had previously put to rest. Macendale is murdered in his cell by someone claming to be the original Hobgoblin and everyone realizes that Ned was framed. Spider-Man and Betty form a “dream team” to investigate and one member happens to be Betty’s ex-flame Flash.

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“Back when he and Betty were having trouble…” Flash leaves out the fact that him sleeping with Betty might have been the cause of that trouble. Although I doubt he wants to tell his idol Spider-Man that he had relations with a married woman. Either way, that detail isn’t important in the context of their conversation. “Hobgoblin Lives” was sprinkled with little continuity references like Flash punching Ned. It utilized continuity very well. Funny to hear Flash reference this encounter like it’s ancient history as I remember covering it in part 2.

The gang arrives at Betty’s house to discuss investigating the Hobgoblin mystery.

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This is good writing! These are people who have baggage and history but deeply care about eachother. Next time you see Flash regress back to his “hey Puny Parker” phase, remember this panel where he hugs Peter and Mary Jane and grieves with them for the loss of their unborn child.

In just a few short years Mackie tried to have Flash go back to laughing at Peter behind his back for being a wimp or being unworthy. Other writers have also done it. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I just don’t see how after sharing such an intimate moment with Peter and Mary Jane he could go back to pushing Peter around as if they’re in high school. Maybe this type of thing happens in real life, but I find it very jarring after the progression of their relationship here.

Not much is said about the Thompson/Brant coupling in this mini-series. The affair from the 80’s is mentioned a few times, but all we have about it’s current status quo is what’s in the panels above. Betty thinks it’s sweet of Flash to come after all that’s happened. I’m curious…is she refering to….

A) What happened between Ned and Flash? Flash is trying to clear Ned even though they had their differences.

B) Flash being a Hobgoblin suspect wrongfully imprisoned?

C) The outcome of their relationship and the way Betty treated him in “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” issue 75?

I suppose “C” makes the most sense. And it is great of him to come after she treated him like next to nothing in “Revelations” and will continue to do it after this investigation is over.

The gang talks about their suspects and splits up Scooby Doo style.

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Flash and Betty don’t interact for the rest of this mini-series. It’s an important series and one of my favorite Spider-Man stories of all time, but because there is alot of Betty/Flash stuff in this era (and this is a Betty/Flash retrospective) I’m going to have to gloss over the rest of this series. Fact of the matter is, it’s earned a post or review of it’s own.

I’ll briefly include this exchange from “Hobgoblin Lives” issue 3 before moving on. Betty finds out some behind the scenes events that contributed to the genesis of her early relationship with Flash.

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There is something wrong here and I won’t get into it again. Just read what I had to say about it here.

Now let’s move on to “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” issue 76. This was an interesting time for the Spiderbooks. The Clone Saga was over and the reboot was still less than two years away. The books went in different directions after being focused on the Clone Saga stuff for so long. I’m a bit biased towards this era because it’s when I started reading.

New plot threads were brought in for the NEW ERA and one of those was Flash pursuing Betty.

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While the issue doesn’t make it explicit, we can only assume that Flash is at the Bugle to talk to Betty. We went from Betty being chummy to him after their breakup, to mad for no reason during “Revelations”, to chummy in “Hobgoblin Lives”…now she’s mad at him again. What gives?

The answer is easy, Betty Brant is horrible person.

The other answer is chronology problems. We are in an era of four different Spider-Man titles by different writers in addition to mini-series like “Hobgoblin Lives” plus the quarterly “Spider-Man Unlimited”. Marvel’s official chronology lists place “Hobgoblin Lives” before this (it was published the same month) and evidence within the storyline backs up that placement. This issue is the next one after “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” issue 75 where Betty treats Flash exactly as she treats him here. So technically speaking Howard Mackie is being consistent with what’s been done in the title so far.

What’s the in-universe answer? We are just going to have to file this one away in “off panel land”. I suppose sometime after “Hobgoblin Lives” something happened with Betty and Flash that put him back in the doghouse. Perhaps he thought that she had warmed back up to him and came onto her again? Then she showed him the door? That actually seems somewhat plausible because it matches up with a line later said in “Spectacular” and it’s consistent with Flash’s behavior during this period (ie: trying to win Betty back). 

Still…here she is downright rude. Whatever he did, was her rudeness justified? Especially when you keep in mind that he rescued her from a cult, gave her a place to live and nursed her back to sanity? Like I said, the answer is filed away in “off panel land”.

Flash has gotten to Betty one way or another. She’s having enough doubts that she comes to Peter about them in “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” issue 77.


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The panel cuts off because Betty’s conversation gets cut off by the arrival of 90’s drama causers “Friends of Humanity”.

“It’s a shame things didn’t work out for us”. Exes have regrets, but Betty just witnessed him having a fight with MJ, and she’s asking him for advice about a relationship with his best friend. Bad taste? I think so but I’m pretty biased when it comes to Betty.

The arrival of Marvel mutant haters and a fight Peter has to defuse doesn’t deter Betty from making it all about her.
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“Ever since my brother, Ned died”.

Betty you are making this too easy for me.

Flash continues his pursuit of Betty in “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” issue 78. Betty is being checked out by a doctor after getting banged up during a story. Getting banged up while covering a news story is something Betty is perfectly fine with.

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What did Flash do to deserve this treatment? She blew up his apartment! At least she didn’t have icicle speech balloons. I suppose that means she’s warming up to him. I am a bit curious about this exchange…

Flash: “I heard you were hurt and wanted to make sure you were okay”.
Betty: “Heard how?”

Flash: “I just heard”.

Is Flash stalking Betty?? Some of you may assume that Peter told Flash, but at this point Peter hasn’t seen Betty since he left her at the cafe the previous issue. Is Flash keeping tabs on Betty through someone at the Bugle? That’s a bit creepy but I can’t imagine how he is getting this information.

If Flash is showing up at Betty’s place of work and following her around, this means he’s very dedicated and focused on his “Flash/Betty 2.0″ plan. Why the sudden interest and heavy pursuit of Betty after all this time? It seemed to happen out of nowhere after all the times we casually saw them throughout the 90’s.

One possible theory is that once Flash saw that Betty was no longer “broken” and she was “healed” it renewed his interest in her. He hadn’t seen the “Brand New Betty” (after her “Web of Spider-Man” issue 91 makeover) until he visited Peter in the hospital in “Sensational Spider-Man” issue 7. That lines up with his sudden interest he showed in “Sensational Spider-Man” issue 11.

Just a note, he and “Brand New Betty” were both at the funeral of May Parker (aka THE ACTRESS) in “Amazing Spider-Man” issue 400, but I’ll assume the occasion wasn’t one where Flash would notice her. I even forgot to include it in the last post.

Over in “Spectacular Spider-Man”, J. M. DeMatteis continues the plot thread of Flash’s alcoholism that he started in “Redemption”. The thread is set up in prior issues with Peter noticing that Flash has had a few too many beers during a supporting cast dinner. He tries to give him a pep talk as Spider-Man, but as this scene from “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 243 shows, it wasn’t that effective. 

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Thank goodness this scene didn’t take place in “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” written by Howard Mackie. Betty would have hung up the phone on him!

Why is he calling Betty? Especially after the way she’s treated him while others like Liz or Peter were genuinely reaching out to Flash? I suppose Flash remembers when he was at a pretty low point during the Hobgoblin business that it was Betty who stood by his side and supported him. Perhaps he feels after everything he and Betty went through that she “gets him” more than Liz or Peter do.

Betty shows up for the talk with Flash in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 244.

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Betty tells Flash she’s been “burned by him before”. I suppose that could be the “off panel land” confrontation I theorized happened after “Hobgoblin Lives”. Still though…you’ve been burned by him? Um, he’s been burned by you….literally!

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You didn’t mean? What did you mean Flash?

I really love the art by Luke Ross here. I think everyone is exaggerated to the most cartoonish extremes, but it works. Flash’s face as he comes onto Betty…the uncomfortable look on Betty’s face…I love it all!

“Testosterone-crazed jerk”? When has that been an issue in their relationship or friendship? File that one away in either “off panel land” or “Betty is crazy”. Discouraged by Betty’s rejection, Flash decides one beer wouldn’t hurt.

Flash’s alcoholism continues to get him in trouble as her spirals down further in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 245.
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For whatever reason, maybe she actually has a conscience, Betty decides to check up on Flash in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 246.

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“Be friends again”? When weren’t they friends? Maybe she’s just talking about what happened since his drunken come on, but it doesn’t seem to be that way. I suppose I may have to eventually fold and say that their encounters after their “off panel land” breakup were just her pretending to tolerate him for the sake of their friends. I just find it so hard to believe because both scenarios are contradicted. There is always the “Betty is insane” option..

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I love Betty in panel 3. The way she’s drawn. Luke Ross at his finest in drawing comic book emotions.

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This was a very good scene. This isn’t Betty and Flash against demons and monsters because of an X-Men crossover or fighting the Hobgoblin. This is Betty and Flash dealing with alcoholism, something that is very real and it literally brings them both to their knees.

It would be very easy for me to criticize Betty for her hesitance in agreeing to help Flash, but she has a point. This is a very deep and heavy thing to get into. While Flash did help her put her life back together after a nervous breakdown, there is no law that says Betty NEEDS to help with his drinking problem. She’s her own human (albeit a horrible one) and can make her own choices.

What happens the rest of the night and where does their relationship stand? We get some clues when we get to “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 247.

The next scene is problematic. Betty ponders what to do about Flash in “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” issue 79.

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This scene was originally published before the scene in the “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 246, but Marvel’s official handbooks and chronology lists place it afterward for many reasons too complicated to get into here. So we have one book where Betty decides to help Flash with his problems then this where she (in typical Howard Mackie written fashion) sticks her nose up at Flash. Betty Brant is a horrible person. Does the chronology make this scene a problem? Actually it fits right in with “Spectacular Spider-Man” issues 247 and 251. It winds up making sense…albeit by accident. Without the “Spectacular” issues the scene also works as just another continuation of the “Flash chasing Betty” plot that we’ve seen in the past few issues of “Peter Parker: Spider-Man”.

Before we get to that, Peter makes amends to Betty for not helping her with the Flash Thompson problem.

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Are you guys reading this? I don’t even have to try to convince people that Betty is a horrible person when Howard Mackie writes her! He does all the work for me! Mary Jane tells her why Peter did what he did before he arrives and Betty still feels the need to needle Peter until Mary Jane makes Betty grudgingly apologize like a child! I may talk more about this issue in a regular “Bertone Hates Betty” post because the next few pages are worse! Really the only relevance this one has to “Flash/Betty” is Peter apologizing to Betty for not helping her with her confusion over Flash.              

“Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 247. Flash shows up at the Bugle with stars in his eyes and ready to tackle the world. Betty isn’t in the mood for tackling.

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Dang! She almost assaults him! You can bet if the tables were turned and she did this to Ned and he punched her in the stomach then there would be problems.

“Amazing Spider-Man” reviewer Donovan adds, “She puts her Foreigner training to use in a public area! That could have been Jonah!”.

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I questioned before what happened after the hug in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 246. Whatever it was, I think it made Flash think he and Betty were back together. He touches her shoulder and calls her “baby” and Betty doesn’t react the way she did in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 244. Flash also says “I thought you…thought we”. What makes him think that? She seems almost ashamed and regretful. This could just be a case of Flash flirting, but I doubt it. 

Did he and Betty sleep together that night?

Maybe. The dialogue makes it sound like they stayed up all night talking, but it’s possible something else went on. Even if what went on wasn’t sex, something happened that led Flash to believe he and Betty were an item again.

I originally thought there was a chronology problem here due to the implication that Flash is talking about the previous night as if it was last night. Rereading the dialogue, there is no explicit date. Flash could be talking about two, three or four nights ago. So it still all fits…we’ll even see how “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” issue 79 fits in a bit.

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“Nobody”.

Damn Betty Brant. Just damn. That’s some cold stuff right there. You could have said anything but “nobody”. He’s “nobody” after he helped you when you thought your husband and mother were alive? He’s nobody after he rescued you from a cult and helped you get back on your feet? He’s nobody after he gave you a place to live and you blew it up? “Nobody”?????!?!?!?

And all of a sudden it’s okay to put relationships aside for a news story?

I hope Flash didn’t hear that. Look at the poor guy. He knows he just got jilted.

I find it a bit hard to believe that Robbie doesn’t recognize Flash. While Robbie doesn’t need to be familiar with all of Peter’s school friends, we need to keep in mind that Robbie was STUDYING PHOTOGRAPHS OF FLASH in the 80’s during his Hobgoblin incarceration and trying to clear his name.

“Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 248. Flash, trying hard not to have a drink, visits his parents for the first time in years. His mother is happy to see him. His father, whom Flash blames for his drinking problem, is another story.

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“Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 249.

Flash meets up with his sister Jessie for the first time in a year but she see’s Flash has a drinking problem and tries to give him a dose of truth. She walks away when he denies it.

Upset due to his confrontation with his father, intervention by his sister and rejection by Betty, Flash has some more beers and does what may be the worst thing he’s done since punching Sha Shan in the face.

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Wow.

This event has a huge fallout for Flash in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 250. Flash is in the hospital and reeling from the fact that he almost murdered a kid. His sister Jessie visits him and Flash starts to blame others and deny it, but once Jessie starts to take off he embraces her and starts to admit he’s to blame.

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As I said before, I really like this storyline. This is one of the things that makes Spider-Man’s supporting cast so interesting. They have storylines like this which are emotionally engaging and I feel are strengthened by the fact that we have a history with these characters. This isn’t Flash getting arrested because he got framed as the Hobgoblin. This is Flash getting arrested for drunk driving and almost killing a kid .There is something very real about that.

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Flash spent the night in jail, he’s broke, he’s lost his license and now he lost his job. He’s not at rock bottom yet though. Filled with beers and rage, Flash decides to visit his father once more.

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Look at this guy! Look at that last panel! He has the Venom symbiote in current continuity….should we be afraid?

Flash looks into his fathers eyes and realizes that he’s becoming just like him. This coupled with his mother coming in is enough to snap Flash out of it.

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I think this is where Flash hits rock bottom. Unless you count being with Betty Brant rock bottom…

It’s enough to make Flash decide to turn his life around. He shares these plans with Betty in “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue 251.

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Betty is referring to Norman buying the Daily Bugle. This was a major plot point during this era that caused many complications.

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I don’t understand why she wants to go downstairs. Seems just as chaotic. Maybe the spot has some sentimental value for them since it’s where Ned Leeds caught them years ago. Anyone else thinks Ross is drawing Betty to look like MJ in some of these panels?

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I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand Flash is the one going through a crisis and here Betty is pulling the dead brother card again and crying as if she’s the one going through crisis.

HOWEVER….

I’m going to have to give Betty a pass here. Alcoholism is hard on everyone involved and despite her attempts to distance herself, Betty is involved.

Flash has done alot for Betty. Does she owe him alot? Yes. Is she obligated to help him through his alcoholism? I don’t think she should be. If she chooses to that’s great, but I’m of the belief (which I may be wrong in) that nobody (even Betty Brant) should be forced or guilted into emotional situations like that if they don’t want to be.

In all the deaths that Betty is mentioning the big elephant in the room seems to be Ben Reilly. At this point in continuity he hasn’t been dead very long (as Betty considers getting involved with Flash) and Betty was seeing him around his death. There were some questions brought up last post about chronology of “Unlimited issue 14″ with the “Redemption” mini-series as some people thought Ben’s reunion with Janine was after his date with Betty. According to Marvel’s official handbooks and chronology the “Redemption” series happened much earlier. This is backed up by encounters Ben has with Flash and Liz. So until Marvel changes their chronology again, it’s canon that Betty was dating Ben when he died.

But I digress..

After reading what Betty says here, her thoughts on Flash in “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” issue 79 now make sense chronologically. Reread that panel keeping in mind what Betty’s saying here. Is it cold? Sure…but now it’s no longer a continuity error. Betty got too close (perhaps she did sleep with him), got scared and retreated.

Flash makes a good point too. It was never Betty’s responsibility to help him. Flash had to do that all on his own. He wants Betty by his side, but getting help for himself is something he needs to do. That is the difference between now and when he was on his knees begging for her a few issues ago.

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Betty tells Flash she loves him and he runs away. Smart move.

Actually Flash rushing off comes off more awkward then the story probably intended it to. I suppose he’s going off to join that treatment program like he told her.

Unless something happened in “off panel land”, this is their first “I love you” to eachother. That seems to be the way it comes across here. Does it seem rushed? I hope not…we’re in “part 6″ and they are only now just saying it. Betty went through her own problems and realized she had to help herself. Maybe she see’s some of herself in Flash when he talks about getting help on his own. Either way, these two have gone through alot of emotional experiences together and this “I love you” has been a long time coming.

This would be a perfect place to leave off, but a third party appears with some ominous plans for the couple.

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Yay for bad 90’s editing. Jill is saying Mary Jane’s lines and Mary Jane is saying Jill’s lines. This happened frequently around this era.

What are Norman’s plans for Flash? Is he going to have Goblin Babies with him like he did with Gwen? Now that Flash and Betty are together and Flash is getting help will Howard Mackie still write Betty as someone who despises Flash? Could Flash’s character regress into a bully for no reason again? Will we get more “off panel” breakups?
The answer to most of these questions are “yes”. Find out which ones soon…in the meantime, I’m going to San Diego!

Leave comments or Norman will do bad things to Flash!

 

 

10 Responses to “Flash and Betty part 6: Betty and the Bottle”

  1. #1 Donovan Grant says:

    Great stuff! I’m missing some issues from the JMD/Ross Spec run, so seeing the Flash alcoholic storyline sequence by sequence just goes to show how terrific that era was and how muvh it’s missed.

  2. #2 AbdulAziz says:

    “Who’s that?” I’m sure Robbie is familiar with Flash Thompson
    Man, that reminds me of Jonah introducing his son to Joe Robertson by Gerry Conway, though Stan Lee wrote them before friendly from the army

  3. #3 Proto Goblin says:

    This era is also aroudn the time i started reading(well last year of the clone saga to be precise but I started picking up more often at this time). It was a very good era that unfortuantely was ruined by THE FINAL CHAPTER, argghhh how many plots and subplots just got dropped out fo nowhere. Atleast DeFalco tried to tie up some loose ends in Spider-Girl. But still if a spider-man forever ever gets released it should be a continuation of THIS ERA.

    Also you mind giving us the official chronology for the titles from this era since you apparently have them, id say between revelations and Gathering of five, Ive always tried to feile my spideys by chronology instead of title and its damn tough.

  4. #4 hornacek says:

    “What are Norman’s plans for Flash? Is he going to have Goblin Babies with him like he did with Gwen?” That reminded me of this: http://spiderfan.org/fans/fun/2004/1018.html

  5. #5 Doc Folsome says:

    I’m not gonna leave a comment b/c I want Norman to do something terrible to Flash…waitasecond…

    I agree about the quality (and nostalgia!) of Luke Ross’ art. That’s one of the main reasons why I was delighted when he worked on Dark Avengers #8 during the Utopia crossover, his first work with Norman since Spec 263! That creative team (Fraction/Ross) even snuck in a ‘m’boy’ from Norman and that had to have been an intentional throwback b/c no one writes Norman like that nowadays…

    Nice work yet again

  6. #6 Gerard Delatour II says:

    I’m glad that people are showering that post-Clone Saga, pre-Reboot era with love — that’s probably my favorite era of Spider-Man that I read while it was happening. Between JMD/Ross Spectacular (seriously, 90s Ross > 00s Ross), Mackie/JR JR PPSM, and Tom DeFalco on Amazing, this was great stuff. I even like Mike Wieringo’s work on Sensational, though I didn’t care for the writing.

    “The gang talks about their suspects and splits up Scooby Doo style.”
    I don’t know if this was intentional on your part, but Betty looks JUST like Velma without glasses in those panels. :lol:

  7. #7 Sthenurus says:

    Norman and flash having goblin baby? add the symbiote into the mix and marvel just got a new idea for some new what if :p

  8. #8 Enigma_2099 says:

    ” Luke Ross has some great art…”

    FINALLY!!! Someone else notices!!! Now let’s get some props for Joe Bennett!

  9. #9 AbdulAziz says:

    “Luke Ross” art in the 90s wasn’t so good, I love his recent art a lot more, his work stunned me of how awesome it is in “Who is Ben Reilly”

  10. #10 Bertone says:

    Thanks for all the kind words everyone! I’m glad we can all come together in our appreciation for one of the greatest eras in Spider-Man comics. I think that during these years “Spectacular” was an even strong book than “Amazing”…and “Amazing” had Defalco!